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Part 2 Chapter 15 Treats of Dancing, Dining, Dying

Old schoolboys remember how, when pious ?neas was compelled by painful circumstances to quit his country, he and his select band of Trojans founded a new Troy, where they landed; raising temples to the Trojan gods; building streets with Trojan names; and endeavouring, to the utmost of their power, to recal their beloved native place. In like manner, British Trojans and French Trojans take their Troy everywhere. Algiers I have only seen from the sea; but New Orleans and Leicester Square I have visited; and have seen a quaint old France still lingering on the banks of the Mississippi; a dingy modern France round that great Globe of Mr. Wyld’s , which they say is coming to an end. There are French cafés, billiards, estaminets, waiters, markers, poor Frenchmen, and rich Frenchmen, in a new Paris — shabby and dirty, it is true — but offering the emigrant the dominoes, the chopine, the petit verre of the patrie. And do not British Trojans, who emigrate to the continent of Europe, take their Troy with them? You all know the quarters of Paris which swarm with us Trojans. From Peace Street to the Arch of the Star are collected thousands of refugees from our Ilium. Under the arcades of the Rue de Rivoli you meet, at certain hours, as many of our Trojans as of the natives. In the Trojan inns of Meurice, the Louvre, we swarm. We have numerous Anglo-Trojan doctors and apothecaries, who give us the dear pills and doses of Pergamus. We go to Mrs. Guerre or kind Mrs. Colombin, and can purchase the sandwiches of Troy, the pale ale and sherry of Troy, and the dear, dear muffins of home. We live for years, never speaking any language but our native Trojan; except to our servants, whom we instruct in the Trojan way of preparing toast for breakfast; Trojan bread-sauce for fowls and partridges; Trojan corned beef, We have temples where we worship according to the Trojan rites. A kindly sight is that which one beholds of a Sunday in the Elysian fields and the St. Honoré quarter, of processions of English grown people and children, stalwart, red-cheeked, marching to their churches, their gilded prayer-books in hand, to sing in a stranger’s land the sacred songs of their Zion. I am sure there are many English in Paris, who never speak to any native above the rank of a waiter or shopman. Not long since I was listening to a Frenchman at Folkestone, speaking English to the waiters and acting as interpreter for his party. He spoke pretty well and very quickly. He was irresistibly comical. I wonder how we maintained our gravity. And you and I, my dear friend, when we speak French? I daresay we are just as absurd. As absurd? And why not? Don’t you be discouraged, young fellow. Courage, mon jeune ami! Remember, Trojans have a conquering way with them. When ?neas landed at Carthage, I daresay he spoke Carthaginian with a ridiculous Trojan accent; but, for all that, poor Dido fell desperately in love with him. Take example by the son of Anchises, my boy. Never mind the grammar or the pronunciation, but tackle the lady, and speak your mind to her as best you can.

This is the plan which the Vicomte de Loisy used to adopt. He was following a cours of English according to the celebrated méthode Jobson. The cours assembled twice a week: and the vicomte, with laudable assiduity, went to all English parties to which he could gain an introduction, for the purpose of acquiring the English language, and marrying une Anglaise. This industrious young man even went au Temple on Sundays for the purpose of familiarizing himself with the English language; and as he sat under Doctor Murrogh Macmanus of T. C. D., a very eloquent preacher at Paris in those days, the vicomte acquired a very fine pronunciation. Attached to the cause of unfortunate monarchy all over the world, the vicomte had fought in the Spanish Carlist armies. He waltzed well: and madame thought his cross looked nice at her parties. Will it be believed that Mrs. General Baynes took this gentleman into special favour; talked with him at soirée after soirée; never laughed at his English; encouraged her girl to waltz with him (which he did to perfection, whereas poor Philip was but a hulking and clumsy performer); and showed him the very greatest favour, until one day, on going into Mr. Bonus’s , the house agent (who lets lodgings, and sells British pickles, tea, sherry, and the like), she found the vicomte occupying a stool as clerk in Mr. Bonus’s establishment, where for twelve hundred francs a year he gave his invaluable services during the day! Mrs. Baynes took poor Madame severely to task for admitting such a man to her assemblies. Madame was astonished. Monsieur was a gentleman of ancient family who had met with misfortunes. He was earning his maintenance. To sit in a bureau was not a dishonour. Knowing that boutique meant shop and gar?on meant boy, Mrs. Baynes made use of the words boutique gar?on the next time she saw the vicomte. The little man wept tears of rage and mortification. There was a very painful scene, at which, thank Mercy, poor Charlotte thought, Philip was not present. Were it not for the general’s cheveux blancs (by which phrase the vicomte very kindly designated General Baynes’s chestnut topknot) the vicomte would have had reason from him. “Charming miss,” he said to Charlotte, “your respectable papa is safe from my sword! Madame your mamma has addressed me words which I qualify not. But you — you are too ‘andsome, too good, to despise a poor soldier, a poor gentleman!” I have heard the vicomte still dances at boarding-houses and is still in pursuit of an Anglaise. He must be a wooer now almost as elderly as the good general whose scalp he respected.

Mrs. Baynes was, to be sure, a heavy weight to bear for poor Madame, but her lean shoulders were accustomed to many a burden; and if the general’s wife was quarrelsome and odious, he, as Madame said, was as soft as a mutton; and Charlotte’s pretty face and manners were the admiration of all. The yellow Miss Bolderos, those hapless elderly orphans left in pawn, might bite their lips with envy, but they never could make them as red as Miss Charlotte’s smiling mouth. To the honour of Madame Smolensk be it said that never by word or hint did she cause those unhappy young ladies any needless pain. She never stinted them of any meal. No full-priced pensioner of Madame’s could have breakfast, luncheon, dinners served more regularly. The day after their mother’s flight, that good Madame Smolensk took early cups of tea to the girls’ rooms, with her own hands; and I believe helped to do the hair of one of them, and otherwise to soothe them in their misfortune. They could not keep their secret. It must be owned that Mrs. Baynes never lost an opportunity of deploring their situation and acquainting all new-comers with their mother’s flight and transgression. But she was good-natured to the captives in her grim way: and admired Madame’s forbearance regarding them. The two old officers were now especially polite to the poor things: and the general rapped one of his boys over the knuckles for saying to Miss Brenda, “If your uncle is a lord, why doesn’t he give you any money?” “And these girls used to hold their heads above mine, and their mother used to give herself such airs!” cried Mrs. Baynes. “And Eliza Baynes used to flatter those poor girls and their mother, and fancy they were going to make a woman of fashion of her!” said Mrs. Bunch. “We all have our weaknesses. Lords are not yours, my dear. Faith, I don’t think you know one,” says stout little Colonel Bunch. “I wouldn’t pay a duchess such court as Eliza paid that woman!” cried Emma; and she made sarcastic inquiries of the general, whether Eliza had heard from her friend the Honourable Mrs. Boldero? But for all this Mrs. Bunch pitied the young ladies, and I believe gave them a little supply of coin from her private purse. A word as to their subsequent history. Their mamma became the terror of boarding-housekeepers: and the poor girls practised their duets all over Europe. Mrs. Boldero’s noble nephew, the present Strongitharm (as a friend who knows the fashionable world informs me), was victimized by his own uncle, and a most painful affair occurred between them at a game at “blind hookey.” The Honourable Mrs. Boldero is living in the precinets of Holyrood; one of her daughters is happily married to a minister; and the other to an apothecary who was called in to attend her in quinsy. So I am inclined to think that phrase about “select” boarding-houses is a mere complimentary term, and as for the strictest references being given and required, I certainly should not lay out extra money for printing that expression in my advertisement, were I going to set up an establishment myself.

Old college friends of Philip’s visited Paris from time to time; and rejoiced in carrying him off to Borel’s or the Trois Frères, and hospitably treating him who had been so hospitable in his time. Yes, thanks be to Heaven, there are good Samaritans in pretty large numbers in this world, and hands ready enough to succour a man in misfortune. I could name two or three gentlemen who drive about in chariots and look at people’s tongues and write queer figures and queer Latin on note-paper, who occultly made a purse containing some seven or ten score fees, and sent them out to Dr. Firmin in his banishment. The poor wretch had behaved as ill as might be, but he was without a penny or a friend. I daresay Dr. Goodenough, amongst other philanthropists, put his hands into his pocket. Having heartily disliked and mistrusted Firmin in prosperity, in adversity he melted towards the poor fugitive wretch: he even could believe that Firmin had some skill in his profession, and in his practice was not quite a quack.

Philip’s old college and school cronies laughed at hearing that, now his ruin was complete, he was thinking about marriage. Such a plan was of a piece with Mr. Firmin’s known prudence and foresight. But they made an objection to his proposed union, which had struck us at home previously. Papa-in-law was well enough, or at least inoffensive: but, ah, ye powers! what a mother-in-law was poor Phil laying up for his future days! Two or three of our mutual companions made this remark on returning to work and chambers after their autumn holiday. We never had too much charity for Mrs. Baynes; and what Philip told us about her did not serve to increase our regard.

About Christmas Mr. Firmin’s own affairs brought him on a brief visit to London. We were not jealous that he took up his quarters with his little friend, of Thornhaugh Street, who was contented that he should dine with us, provided she could have the pleasure of housing him under her kind shelter. High and mighty people as we were — for under what humble roofs does not Vanity hold her sway? — we, who knew Mrs. Brandon’s virtues, and were aware of her early story, would have condescended to receive her into our society; but it was the little lady herself who had her pride, and held aloof. “My parents did not give me the education you have had, ma’am,” Caroline said to my wife. “My place is not here, I know very well; unless you should be took ill, and then, ma’am, you’ll see that I will be glad enough to come. Philip can come and see me; and a blessing it is to me to set eyes on him. But I shouldn’t be happy in your drawing-room, nor you in having me. The dear children look surprised at my way of talking; and no wonder: and they laugh sometimes to one another, God bless ’em! I don’t mind. My education was not cared for. I scarce had any schooling but what I taught myself. My Pa hadn’t the means of learning me much: and it is too late to go to school at forty odd. I’ve got all his stockings and things darned; and his linen, poor fellow! — beautiful: I wish they kep it as nice in France, where he is! You’ll give my love to the young lady, won’t you, ma’am: and, oh! it’s a blessing to me to hear how good and gentle she is! He has a high temper, Philip have: but them he likes can easy manage him. You have been his best kind friends; and so will she be, I trust; and they may be happy though they’re poor. But they’ve time to get rich, haven’t they. And it’s not the richest that’s the happiest, that I can see in many a fine house where Nurse Brandon goes and has her eyes open, though she don’t say much, you know.” In this way Nurse Brandon would prattle on to us when she came to see us. She would share our meal, always thanking by name the servant who helped her. She insisted on calling our children “Miss” and “Master,” and I think those young satirists did not laugh often or unkindly at her peculiarities. I know they were told that Nurse Brandon was very good; and that she took care of her father in his old age; and that she had passed through very great griefs and trials; and that she had nursed uncle Philip when he had been very ill indeed, and when many people would have been afraid to come near him; and that her life was spent in tending the sick, and in doing good to her neighbour.

One day during Philip’s stay with us we happen to read in the paper Lord Ringwood’s arrival in London. My lord had a grand town house of his own which he did not always inhabit. He liked the cheerfulness of a hotel better. Ringwood House was too large and too dismal. He did not care to eat a solitary mutton chop in a great dining-room surrounded by ghostly images of dead Ringwoods — his dead son, who had died in his boyhood; his dead brother attired in the uniform of his day (in which picture there was no little resemblance to Philip Firmin, the colonel’s grandson); Lord Ringwood’s dead self, finally, as he appeared still a young man, when Lawrence painted him, and when he was the companion of the Regent and his friends. “Ah! that’s the fellow I least like to look at,” the old man would say, scowling at the picture, and breaking out into the old-fashioned oaths which garnished many conversations in his young days. “That fellow could ride all day; and sleep all night, or go without sleep as he chose; and drink his four bottles, and never have a headache; and break his collar bone, and see the fox killed three hours after. That was once a man, as old Marlborough said, looking at his own picture. Now my doctor’s my master; my doctor and the infernal gout over him. I live upon pap and puddens, like a baby; only I’ve shed all my teeth, hang ’em. If I drink three glasses of sherry, my butler threatens me. You young fellow, who haven’t twopence in your pocket, by George, I would like to change with you. Only you wouldn’t, hang you, you wouldn’t. Why, I don’t believe Todhunter would change with me: would you, Todhunter? — and you’re about as fond of a great man as any fellow I ever knew. Don’t tell me. You are, sir. Why, when I walked with you on Ryde sands one day, I said to that fellow, ‘Todhunter, don’t you think I could order the sea to stand still?’ I did. And you had never heard of King Canute, hanged if you had — and never read any book except the Stud-book and Mrs. Glasse’s Cookery, hanged if you did.” Such remarks and conversations of his relative has Philip reported to me. Two or three men about town had very good imitations of this toothless, growling, blasphemous old cynic. He was splendid and penurious; violent and easily led; surrounded by flatterers and utterly lonely. He had old-world notions, which I believe have passed out of the manners of great folks now. He thought it beneath him to travel by railway, and his postchaise was one of the last on the road. The tide rolled on in spite of this old Canute, and has long since rolled over him and his postchaise. Why, almost all his imitators are actually dead; and only this year, when old Jack Mummers gave an imitation of him at Bays’s (where Jack’s mimicry used to be received with shouts of laughter but a few years since), there was a dismal silence in the coffee-room, except from two or three young men at a near table, who said, “What is the old fool mumbling and swearing at now? An imitation of Lord Ringwood, and who was he?” So our names pass away, and are forgotten: and the tallest statues, do not the sands of time accumulate and overwhelm them? I have not forgotten my lord; any more than I have forgotten the cock of my school, about whom, perhaps, you don’t care to hear. I see my lord’s bald head, and hooked beak, and bushy eyebrows, and tall velvet collar, and brass buttons, and great black mouth, and trembling hand, and trembling parasites round him, and I can hear his voice, and great oaths, and laughter. You parasites of to-day are bowing to other great people; and this great one, who was alive only yesterday, is as dead as George IV. or Nebuchadnezzar.

Well, we happen to read that Philip’s noble relative, Lord Ringwood, has arrived at — hotel, whilst Philip is staying with us: and I own that I counsel my friend to go and wait upon his lordship. He had been very kind at Paris: he had evidently taken a liking to Philip. Firmin ought to go and see him. Who knows? Lord Ringwood might be inclined to do something for his brother’s grandson.

This was just the point, which any one who knew Philip should have hesitated to urge upon him. To try and make him bow and smile on a great man with a view to future favours, was to demand the impossible from Firmin. The king’s men may lead the king’s horses to the water, but the king himself can’t make them drink. I own that I came back to the subject, and urged it repeatedly on my friend. “I have been,” said Philip, sulkily. “I have left a card upon him. If he wants me, he can send to No. 120, Queen Square, Westminster, my present hotel. But if you think he will give me anything beyond a dinner, I tell you you are mistaken.”

We dined that day with Philip’s employer, worthy Mr. Mugford, of the Pall Mall Gazette, who was profuse in his hospitalities, and especially gracious to Philip. Mugford was pleased with Firmin’s letters; and you may be sure that severer critics did not contradict their friend’s good-natured patron. We drove to the suburban villa at Hampstead, and steaming odours of soup, mutton, onions, rushed out into the hall to give us welcome, and to warn us of the good cheer in store for the party. This was not one of Mugford’s days for countermanding side dishes, I promise you. Men in black, with noble white cotton gloves, were in waiting to receive us, and Mrs. Mugford, in a rich blue satin and feathers, a profusion of flounces, laces, marabouts, jewels, and eau-de-Cologne, rose to welcome us from a stately sofa, where she sat surrounded by her children. These, too, were in brilliant dresses, with shining new-combed hair. The ladies, of course, instantly began to talk about their children, and my wife’s unfeigned admiration for Mrs. Mugford’s last baby I think won that worthy lady’s goodwill at once. I made some remark regarding one of the boys as being the picture of his father, which was not lucky. I don’t know why, but I have it from her husband’s own admission, that Mrs. Mugford always thinks I am “chaffing” her. One of the boys frankly informed me there was goose for dinner; and when a cheerful cloop was heard from a neighbouring room, told me that was Pa drawing the corks. Why should Mrs. Mugford reprove the outspoken child and say, “James, hold your tongue, do now?” Better wine than was poured forth when those corks were drawn, never flowed from bottle. — I say, I never saw better wine nor more bottles. If ever a table may be said to have groaned, that expression might with justice be applied to Mugford’s mahogany. Talbot Twysden would have feasted forty people with the meal here provided for eight by our most hospitable entertainer. Though Mugford’s editor was present, all the honours of the entertainment were for the Paris Correspondent, who was specially requested to take Mrs. M. to dinner. As an earl’s grand-nephew, and a lord’s great-grandson, of course we felt that this place of honour was Firmin’s right. How Mrs. Mugford pressed him to eat! She carved — I am very glad she would not let Philip carve for her, for he might have sent the goose into her lap — she carved, I say, and I really think she gave him more stuffing than to any of us, but that may have been mere envy on my part. Allusions to Lord Ringwood were repeatedly made during dinner. “Lord R. has come to town, Mr. F., I perceive,” says Mugford, winking. “You’ve been to see him, of course?” Mr. Firmin glared at me very fiercely, he had to own he had been to call on Lord Ringwood. Mugford led the conversation to the noble lord so frequently that Philip madly kicked my shins under the table. I don’t-know how many times I had to suffer from that foot which in its time has trampled on so many persons: a kick for each time Lord Ringwood’s name, houses, parks, properties, were mentioned, was a frightful allowance. Mrs. Mugford would say, “May I assist you to a little pheasant, Mr. Firmin? I daresay they are not as good as Lord Ringwood’s “ (a kick from Philip), or Mugford would exclaim, “Mr. F., try that ‘ock! Lord Ringwood hasn’t better wine than that.” (Dreadful punishment upon my tibia under the table.) “John! Two ‘ocks, me and Mr. Firmin! Join us, Mr. P.,” and so forth. And after dinner, to the ladies — as my wife, who betrayed their mysteries, informed me — Mrs. Mugford’s conversation was incessant regarding the Ringwood family and Firmin’s relationship to that noble house. The meeting of the old lord and Firmin in Paris was discussed with immense interest. His lordship called him Philip most affable! he was very fond of Mr. Firmin. A little bird had told Mrs. Mugford that somebody else was very fond of Mr. Firmin. She hoped it would be a match, and that his lordship would do the handsome thing by his nephew. What? My wife wondered that Mrs. Mugford should know about Philip’s affairs? (and wonder indeed she did.) A little bird had told Mrs. M— , a friend of both ladies, that dear, good little nurse Brandon, who was engaged — and here the conversation went off into mysteries which I certainly shall not reveal. Suffice it that Mrs. Mugford was one of Mrs. Brandon’s best, kindest, and most constant patrons — or might I be permitted to say matrons? — and had received a most favourable report of us from the little nurse. And here Mrs. Pendennis gave a verbatim report not only of our hostess’s speech, but of her manner and accent. “Yes, ma’am,” says Mrs. Mugford to Mrs. Pendennis, “our friend Mrs. B. has told me of a certain gentleman whose name shall be nameless. His manner is cold, not to say ‘aughty. He seems to be laughing at people sometimes — don’t say No; I saw him once or twice at dinner, both him and Mr. Firmin. But he is a true friend, Mrs. Brandon says he is. And when you know him, his heart is good.” Is it? Amen. A distinguished writer has composed, in not very late days, a comedy of which the cheerful moral is, that we are “not so bad as we seem.” Aren’t we? Amen, again. Give us thy hearty hand, Iago! Tartuffe, how the world has been mistaken in you! Macbeth! put that little affair of the murder out of your mind. It was a momentary weakness; and who is not weak at times? Blifil, a more maligned man than you does not exist! O humanity! how we have been mistaken in you! Let us expunge the vulgar expression “miserable sinners” out of al............

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